On Sept. 30, Children’s Health Insurance Program reauthorization expired. While most states will be OK until December, the brinkmanship and uncertainty is anxiety-inducing, as state budget-writers brace for potentially devastating cuts.
A vivid example of Congressional dysfunction is the push-pull to reauthorize health insurance for low-income children. It’s as embarrassing as it is enraging.
Historically, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is emblematic of bipartisan decision-making, conceived in 1997 by U.S. Sens. Ted Kennedy and Orrin Hatch as a vehicle for covering children whose families earn just enough income not to qualify for Medicaid. These are the families hovering a paycheck or two above an eviction — with parents slipping into the purgatory of the working poor.
On Sept. 30, CHIP reauthorization expired, as lawmakers wrangled over funding and next steps. While most states will be OK until December, the brinkmanship and uncertainty is anxiety-inducing, as state budget-writers brace for potentially devastating cuts.
Nearly 9 million children will be affected by a CHIP cutoff, including close to 70,000 children here in Washington. These cuts would be cockamamie since so much of children’s health centers on prevention, including vaccinations and primary-care visits to head off future illnesses.
Last week, the U.S. Senate Finance Committee, with a push from Sen. Maria Cantwell, passed a five-year CHIP reauthorization. The full Senate has yet to vote. The House Energy and Commerce Committee also passed a bill, under the chairmanship of Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden, which includes funding offsets that could further erode the Affordable Care Act and Medicare. It’s a partisan maneuver designed to advance the Republican caucus’ health-care agenda.
But in matters of children’s health, the best politics is no politics.
Gridlock will hit a dubious threshold if lawmakers can’t find common cause on safeguarding children’s health. All of Washington’s Congressional delegation must ensure that doesn’t happen.